Thousands flee as 155mph hurricane heads for Mexico

Police in Jamaica said a man, a woman, a baby boy and his five-year-old sister, were driving along a flooded rural road in the south-west of the island when a surge of water pushed them over a cliff.

On the coast of Mexico, Francisco Alor, the Mayor of Cancun, said: "We have very little hope this will change course. This hurricane is coming with the same force as Gilbert." That hurricane in 1988 killed 300 people in Mexico.

Officials began the evacuation of 85,000 people across more than 100 miles (160km) of coastline and ordered more than 30,000 tourists in Cancun to move. The state oil company, Petroleos Mexicanos, evacuated offshore platforms of 15,000 workers.

Emily's winds strengthened on Saturday night to near 155mph (250kph). That could make it the strongest storm on the Saffir-Simpson scale, a Category 5 hurricane. Dave Roberts, a meteorologist said it was the strongest storm to form this early in the Atlantic season since record-keeping began in 1860.

Wind gusts kicked waves 8ft high and bent palm trees double in Kingston, Jamaica's capital. Torrential rains drenched the south coast and washed away at least three houses. Downed power poles and piles of other storm debris blocked the seaside highway to Kingston's international airport and other roads.

Late yesterday Emily was centred 165 miles south-west of Grand Cayman Island and 250 miles east-south-east of Mexico's resort island Cozumel. The storm was moving west-north-west. Hurricane winds extended 60 miles and tropical storm force winds a further 150 miles.

Emily was expected to strike Mexico's resort-packed Yucatan peninsula late last night or early today. After that, if Emily remains on track, it is expected to lose strength moving overland but regain dangerous energy in warm waters over the Gulf of Mexico. The hurricane is likely to make landfall again on Wednesday, near the US-Mexico border, between north-eastern Mexico and southern Texas.

Long lines of tourists choked Cancun airport yesterday and hundreds of buses were moving others to safer areas inland.

"The locals seem pretty nonchalant about it," said Becky Hart, 29, a school teacher from Madera, California, as she waited to board a plane. "Then at the hotel they started chopping down the coconuts from the trees and moving people from the top floors. People were boarding up windows."

There are about 100 British guests at Riu Palace Las Americas hotel in Cancun. Valera Martinez, a receptionist, said: "We have to start evacuating peopleand busing them to our hotel downtown, away from the coast. We have more than 800 people to move before the weather worsens."

Emily is the fifth named storm and second major hurricane of the season. Tropical Storm Cindy and Hurricane Dennis tore through the Caribbean during the past two weeks, killing at least 20 people.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine